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Receiver due to be appointed to top Donegal golf club

Narin and Portnoo members to hold emergency general meeting

Declan Magee

Reporter:

Declan Magee

Narin and Portnoo now among Ireland's top 30 golf courses

Members at Narin and Portnoo Golf Club are due to meet at an emergency general meeting next Friday.

A receiver is due to be appointed to one of Donegal’s best known golf clubs before the end of the month.

Members at Narin and Portnoo Golf Club are due to meet at an emergency general meeting next Friday, August 25th, where it is expected they will vote on the terms of a takeover by Donegal-born New York businessman, Liam McDevitt.

The Ballyshannon native has acquired €1.71m of debt the club owed to Ulster Bank. Last year the debt was passed on to  Cerberus, a US private equity firm specialising in distressed investing.

Mr McDevitt owns the debt and the loans are secured by the clubs assets.

Three holes, about 20 per cent of the course, are owned by a local family who have leased the land to the club. The security for the loans is the other 80 per cent, the clubhouse and machinery buildings.

Mr McDevitt, whose late father Liam is from the Portnoo area, is promising to write off the debt and improve the members’ playing experience at the club through investment.

The club’s debt came from the building of a new clubhouse and new holes in 2007. In that time membership has dropped from over 700 to about 350.

In a statement Mr McDevitt said: “It is with regret that I must appoint a receiver to take control of the assets associated with the loans that I have purchased to protect my investment.”

While club sources say the majority of members support the move, some are reluctant to see the club move out of  hands of the membership and into private ownership.

“Some members are objecting, which is fair enough. They have historic links and don't want to see it falling into private hands. There is hostility - most members are people who have links to the club but they have the best interest of the club in mind.

“Most members are for it as there is €1.7m debt and this man is paying it off and letting us play golf,” a club source said. “It seems to be a winner for members.”

Another source said the offer had been “very favourably received but members need time to reflect on the offer”.

“But a big concern for the local area is that the club could close and a facility is lost to local members and the local area,” the source said.

“A few members have concerns. Some people would still like to have it in the hands of  the members but the bank have a right to move the loan on.”

An offer to members was made on July 7th which would see the €1.7m debt written off and a 100-year license granted at a cost of €1 a year. Terms of the offer include:  maintenance of current membership categories, fees and levies for a period of one year;  making the course available to members seven days per week unless maintenance is required; the development of  the course and implementation of new programs to attract new members and expand youth golf; and the completion of alterations to the course to include the addition of two extra holes, tees and bunkers.

In a statement to the Donegal Democrat Mr McDevitt said he was disappointed that members have not been given the opportunity to vote on any of the terms.

"A company that I own called Knather Acquisitions acquired the debt owed by Narin and Portnoo Golf Club. Since then I have made an offer to the club guaranteeing its future for the next 100 years at a cost of €1 a year with all debts forgiven. My intentions for the club are sincere and if given the opportunity I would have enhanced the members playing experience while maintaining privileges similar to what they now have.

“Unfortunately, no progress has been made as it relates to negotiations with the club’s management and the members have not been given the opportunity to vote on any of the terms that I have presented.  I have been a member of the club on and off for nearly 50 years and it is with regret that I must appoint a receiver to take control of the assets associated with the loans that I have purchased to protect my investment.”